127 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental drug overdoses since the beginning of this year. That includes 17 in July alone. The numbers had been declining – down to one overdose death in June. But health department officials are alarmed by the sudden spike.
Rhode Island Public Radio has been tracking the state’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis. Health care reporter Kristin Gourlay joined host Dave Fallon in the studio to talk about the recent increase.
Rhode Island’s health department has started tracking the number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Agency head Dr. Michael Fine says that’s because those drugs are addictive. And four out of five people who use heroin got started on prescription painkillers. In July, he says, 118,000 Rhode Islanders got prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
Local efforts to prevent drug overdose deaths could get a boost, if Congress passes new legislation to expand funding to such programs.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill that would make funding available to community organizations and public health agencies to buy and distribute naloxone, or Narcan. That’s a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose on prescription painkillers or heroin.
A new program aims to connect people who have accidentally overdosed on opioids with addiction treatment – before they leave the emergency room. The state’s largest nonprofit mental health service organization, The Providence Center, is providing what it calls “recovery coaches” to Kent Hospital through a program called AnchorED.
Doctors' offices and emergency departments sometimes struggle with how to help someone in active addiction. Where do you send them once they're stabilized? How do you talk to them about their addiction? Often they don't have the resources to arrange the next steps for these patients, and therein lies a missing link for addicts who seek medical help for one reason or another but don't get into treatment for the addiction that probably played a role in their seeking medical help in the first place.
From left to right: State police chief Col. Stephen O'Donnell, Governor Lincoln Chafee, Health department director Dr. Michael Fine, Dept. of Behavior Health head Craig Stenning, and the Providence Center's Jim Gillen at a press conference Thursday at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket, discuss a reporter's question.
State leaders have announced some new steps in the fight against prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. The news accompanies the release of the latest grim numbers of drug overdose deaths.
Rhode Island health department head Michael Fine told a standing-room-only crowd at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket that 85 people have died since January from suspected drug overdoses, mostly heroin. Hundreds more have overdosed but survived, he said, thanks to an antidote called Narcan, which first responders carry.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled "Hearing Heroin Everywhere." If I were to rewrite that title today, it'd be "Hearing Narcan Everywhere." It seems the conversation has changed a bit from "Houston, we have a problem," to "Houston, how do we stop this thing?" But I'm confident most health care providers and people affected by addiction and overdose would agree that the fact that we're still having the conversation - publicly, in the media, in public forums, at city halls - is a good thing.
The Rhode Island health department has issued more emergency regulations to deal with the state’s rising number of deaths from opioid overdoses. The new regulations require hospitals and health care professionals to report any overdoses from prescription painkillers, heroin, or other opioids to the department within 48 hours.